A hypsometric curve is an empirical cumulative distribution function of elevations in a catchment. Differences in hypsometric curves between landscapes arise because the geomorphic processes that shape the landscape may be different. The hypsometric curve may also be shown as a continuous function and graphically displayed as an x-y plot with elevation on the vertical, y-axis and area above the corresponding elevation on the horizontal or x-axis. The curve can also be shown in non-dimensional or standardized form by scaling elevation and area by the maximum values. The non-dimensional hypsometric curve provides hydrologist and geomorphologist with a way to assess the similarity of watersheds — and is one of several characteristics used for doing so.
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